If you view Donald Trump as an existential threat to democracy and civilization — and we think a lot of you do — then the 2018 midterms are literally a referendum on whether the president should be given unfettered power to pursue his corrupt, oligarchic, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and anti-Muslim agenda, or whether Democrats should take control of Congress to create an effective counterweight.
Even conservative columnist George Will argues that the Republicans needs to lose the midterm elections in order to save democracy.
Roughly two-thirds of voters in Guilford County who reside in the 13th Congressional District hold the power to determine whether one seat in the House remains in Republican hands or shifts into the Democratic column. FiveThirtyEight.com gives Republican Ted Budd a slender 1.8 points over Democrat Kathy Manning. Of course, there is a Green Party candidate and a Libertarian party candidate in the mix to throw off any reliable prognostication.
Similarly, the outcome of the Forsyth County Commissioner race will likely determine whether the governing body stays a moderate course or reverts back to conservative rule. Although they have an uphill battle, there are Democratic candidates in the at-large and suburban District 2 race challenging Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ “School Choice” assignment plan, which is widely blamed for re-segregating the state’s fourth-largest public school system. Voters in Guilford County are also electing new county commissioners and school board members.
Every single state legislative race is contested this year, with only four Democratic pickups needed across the state to break the Republican supermajority in the House. Do you care about Medicaid expansion, charter schools, teacher raises and Confederate monuments? They pretty much all hinge on which party controls the state legislature. Other contentious issues like voter ID will be directly decided by voters across the state in the form of referenda.
There’s a high-profile state Supreme Court race, which is important because the courts increasingly have the final say over virtually any consequential piece of legislation that comes out of the General Assembly.
Early voting started on Wednesday and runs through Saturday, Nov. 3.
The sheer length of this voter guide — 93 candidates, and we didn’t include Soil & Water Board positions — might seem overwhelming. Don’t be intimidated. Remember that some races are at large (meaning everyone in the state or county gets a vote), and some are by district. Your first step is to go online and look up your voter registration (which you should do anyway, to make sure you haven’t been purged), and then scroll to the bottom and click on your sample ballot. Then — just a suggestion — go through this voter guide with a pen and flag the races on your ballot. Also, take a look at the websites for the two local boards of elections — forsyth.cc/elections in Forsyth County and guilfordcountync.gov/our-county/board-of-elections in Guilford County — to look up times and locations for early voting.
See you at the polls!
5th Congressional District
Virginia Foxx (R, i): Rep. Virginia Foxx was considered an arch-conservative when first elected to the seat in 2004 and drifted rightward with the party, ascending to the Republican Leadership Conference after the 2012 election. Foxx served as secretary of the House Republican Conference from 2013 to 2016 and remains the chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce where she is hyper-focused on de-regulating the education system. Foxx seeks to roll back reproductive rights, to revoke birthright citizenship, to fund a wall along the southern US border and professes limited-government values.
DD Adams (D): Adams’ progressive platform including raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, legalizing marijuana, creating a path to citizenship for eligible DACA recipients, single-payer healthcare and gun-control measures like reinstating the assault-rifle ban. Adams, who is serving her third term on Winston-Salem City Council, is open to impeaching and potentially removing President Trump from office if he is found guilty of high crimes. She has faced an uphill battle in a district that has leaned Republican even prior to the GOP redrawing the state’s electoral map to their benefit in 2011.
6th Congressional District
Mark Walker (R, i): Republican incumbent Mark Walker was elected to the 6th Congressional District after Howard Coble retired in 2014. When asked about the recent Supreme Court controversy, Walker said that while it took a lot of bravery for Christine Blasey Ford to come forward, he believes that Brett Kavanaugh “demonstrated the highest level of professionalism” and he’s glad he was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Walker worked with fellow US Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat, in 2016 to launch a bi-partisan internship program aimed at increasing diversity on Capitol Hill through HBCUs. Walker claims to have made history in April after raising $650,000 in a single lunch event in Greensboro attended by Vice President Mike Pence.
Ryan Watts (D): Twenty years younger than incumbent Mark Walker, Democrat Ryan Watts was born and raised in North Carolina. Watts believes that Kavanaugh’s “temperament and partisanship should have disqualified him from sitting on the highest court in the land.” Watts also says that he is also “looking very diligently at the outcome of the Mueller investigation” and believes that “the Trump campaign willingly engaged with foreign actors illegally.” Watts has raised just over $200,000 according to a Federal Election Commission report from June.
Ted Budd (R, i): A gun-store and shooting-range owner, Budd first won election to Congress two years ago, breaking out from a crowd of 17 Republicanswith a financial assist from the Club for Growth. As a one-term congressman, he’s a ripe target for a Democratic pickup. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee endorsed Budd’s challenger in its Red to Blue program way back in December 2017, and the grassroots Swing Left has also been knocking on doors in the district. Budd voted to overturn the Affordable Care Act and for the corporate tax rate cut. He’s a co-sponsor of the Unmasking Antifa Act, which would impose a 15-year prison sentence on anyone who “injures, oppresses, threatens or intimidates any person” while “wearing a mask.”
Kathy Manning (D): A former chair of the Jewish Federations of North America and lead fundraiser for the Tanger Performing Arts Center in Greensboro, Manning said she was motivated to run for Congress because she worries that repeal of the Affordable Care Act would result in her daughter losing health coverage because of a pre-existing condition. She supports comprehensive background checks and closing loopholes for gun-show sales. The Budd campaign is running attack ads against Manning over a taxpayer-supported parking deck that would benefit a hotel project involving the candidate’s husband. Manning has pointed out that she has no role in the project, which is her husband’s undertaking, and says the couple has pledged to donate any profits from the deal to the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. Despite Manning’s superior fundraising record and support from national Democratic groups, most polling shows that the district favors Budd, with FiveThirtyEight giving it to him by 1.8 points.
Robert Corriher (G): A new law passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, one that lowered the signature threshold for ballot access, allowed the Green Party to put forward a nominee for any race in the state. The 13th is an interesting choice, since it’s one of two or three Republican-held districts where Democratic challengers are within striking distance. A labor organizer and self-described “socialist,” Corriher says he’s running “to build independent power for working people,” and a platform of universal healthcare, tuition-free higher education and ending the war on drugs. (see reporting on this candidate)
Tom Bailey (L): The Libertarian candidate punted on our question about whether candidates believe Justice Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford, but he volunteered: “I think Kavanaugh is an entirely unfit choice for Supreme Court due to his contempt for the Constitution as evidence by his work on the Patriot Act and his support for Bush legalizing torture.” And his response to our question about presidential impeachment reveals a leftward tilt: “Yes, I would consider impeaching Trump for his unauthorized acts of war, his violations of the Bill of Rights and his inhumane treatment of immigrants among other reasons.”
Rick Gunn (R, i): Gunn has represented Senate District 24 in Alamance County since 2011. The district was recently redrawn to cover roughly a third of Guilford County. The candidate didn’t respond to the City Beat election questionnaire, so it’s hard to know where he stands on the issues. Beyond the claim that Gunn is “North Carolina’s jobs senator,” his campaign website isn’t much help.
JD Wooten (D): Formerly a second lieutenant in the US Air Force, Wooten lives in McLeansville and serves in the intellectual property group at Womble Bond Dickinson. On the issues, he calls HB2 “a regrettable piece of legislation,” opposes the 2015 law that prohibits universities and local governments from removing Confederate monuments, wants more public access to police body-camera video, favors expanding Medicaid, and opposes voter ID.
District 26 (see reporting on this race)
Jerry W. Tillman (R, i): A retired school administrator and eight-term incumbent who serves as one of the majority whips for the Republican leadership team in the Senate, Tillman indicated to City Beat that he’s not overly concerned about teachers paying out of pocket for school supplies. “No matter how much we fund education, teachers will always try to get the extras their students need,” he wrote. “I don’t see this ever changing much.” On other issues, he supports the current state law prohibiting cities and universities from removing Confederate monuments; supports the current police body-camera law, which requires an order from a superior court judge to obtain access; opposes expanding Medicaid; and supports voter ID. Tillman makes no apologies for the Republican majority’s partisan gerrymandering scheme, even though the courts have ruled it unconstitutional. He drew open laughter from a group of voters at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro on Tuesday when he said, “There’s nothing wrong with partisan election districts.”
Bill McCaskill (D): A retired supervisor with Randolph County Department of Social Services, McCaskill did not respond to City Beat’s questionnaire. But in his remarks at the Temple Emanuel candidate forum, he assailed the Republican majority’s tax policy and rollback of environmental regulations. “I personally, if I was in the legislature, would not vote to lower income tax rates and then turn around and raise sales tax and fees that disproportionately affect lower-income people,” McCaskill said. “If I was in the legislature, I personally would not vote to repeal the rules and regulations that have been in place for 40 years to protect our environment. I would especially not underfund the Department of Environmental Quality.”
District 27 (see reporting on this race)
Trudy Wade (R, i): Wade was first elected to the state Senate in 2012 after unsuccessfully attempting to re-open the White Street Landfill as a member of Greensboro City Council. As a state senator, Wade has demonstrated a special aptitude for the Republican majority’s art of pre-empting local government, with mixed results. The federal courts struck down an effort by Wade to restructure Greensboro’s election system in a manner that would maximize Republican advantage. And although a bill she filed to deprive Guilford County newspapers of revenue from legal ads died, the legislation was later resurrected in gut-and-replace maneuver that passed into law without Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature. Wade declined to return City Beat’s questionnaire, complaining that Senior Editor Jordan Green has never treated her fairly; one irony of her complaint is that City Beat wasn’t affected by Wade’s anti-newspaper legislation.
Michael Garrett (D): Garrett, who garnered nearly 47 percent of the vote in a losing bid against Wade in 2016, may benefit from redrawn lines that make the district friendlier to a Democrat in this year’s rematch. Garrett strongly supports Medicaid expansion, re-prioritizing the needs of the public education system, making it easier for local governments and universities to determine the fate of monuments, and legislation that would allow cities and local law enforcement oversight bodies greater leeway to decide whether to release police body camera video footage. He opposed HB 2 and voter ID.
Gladys Robinson (D, i): Democratic Rep. Gladys Robinson, current deputy minority leader of the Senate, was first elected to the District 28 seat in 2010 and won her 2016 bid with nearly 84 percent of the vote. The Democratic leaning district includes heavily urbanized section of Greensboro and High Point. Robinson supports expanding Medicaid, increasing funding for K-12 education, making it easier for local governments and universities to determine the fate of monuments, and legislation that would allow citizens access to police body camera video. She strongly opposed HB2 and voter ID.
Clark Porter (R): Porter didn’t respond to our questionnaire, and he doesn’t have a campaign website. The posts on his personal Facebook page generally reflect disdain for liberals, Democrats and the news media. Otherwise, Porter’s positions on the issues and plans as a prospective lawmaker are more or less a black box. His name first surfaced in late 2016 as part of a group of Republican officials who filed challenges against Democratic voters in the wake of Gov. Pat McCrory’s unsuccessful reelection bid, and were in turn slapped with a defamation lawsuit.
District 31 (see reporting on this race)
Joyce Krawiec (R, i): A racially caricatured meme of President Obama labeled “monkey” that was posted on Krawiec’s personal Facebook page caused a minor stir for the Republican lawmaker, but she said it had previously escaped her notice. The anti-abortion social conservative, who was first appointed to the District 31 seat to fill a vacancy with the retirement of Pete Brunstetter in 2014, opposes expanding Medicaid, supports voter ID, opposes giving local municipalities and universities authority to decide the fate of Confederate monuments, and supports the current police body-camera law. (see reporting on this candidate)
John Motsinger Jr. (D): The name John Motsinger Jr. might look familiar: His father ran for the seat on the Democratic ticket in 2014, and his mother, Elisabeth Motsinger, serves on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board. The junior Motsinger, who works as a lighting-and-rigging technician for traveling theater shows, said he’s running because, “I don’t think the issues of my generation are being addressed, and they’re not being fixed for the long term.” Motsinger favors giving local municipalities control over whether to remove Confederate monuments, supports Medicaid expansion, and opposes voter ID.
Paul Lowe Jr. (D, i): Democratic Senator Paul Lowe has held the District 32 seat since 2015, when he replaced Democratic Sen. Earline Parmon, who resigned and has since passed away. This is the first election in which Lowe has faced a challenger in the heavily Democratic district, which covers Winston-Salem. Lowe, who has sponsored many bills in the past year, including one on universal voter registration and a revision of marijuana laws, both of which died in committee, believes that HB2 was “bad and regrettable” for the state and that Confederate monuments should be removed from state property. He also believes in expanding Medicaid and increasing funding for schools.
Eric Henderson (R): Henderson did not return our questionnaire, but an Oct. 13 tweet, “Jobs, not mobs,” seems to take subtle aim at both Democratic protesters who opposed the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh and antiracist activists in Chapel Hill. In a recent interview with the Winston-Salem Journal, Henderson indicated he wants to increase alternatives to public school, continue to reduce tax rates, and increase criminal penalties for people who sell crack cocaine. This isn’t his first election: Henderson unsuccessfully challenged Democrat Jeff MacIntosh for the Northwest Ward seat on Winston-Salem City Council in 2016.
District 57 (see reporting on this race)
Ashton Clemmons (D): The newly drawn District 57 offers an easy pickup for Democrats, and Ashton Clemmons, a former assistant superintendent, is probably the party’s dream candidate. She marched with teachers in Raleigh in Mayto call for increased pay and additional funding. Clemmons opposes charter schools, arguing that they do not provide equal access to students from families with limited financial resources. “Charter schools do not have to provide transportation for children,” she says. “Our district is 67 percent kids that qualify for free and reduced lunch. So you cannot tell me that in a district that is two thirds where kids need help to have their food provided, it’s equal access when charter schools don’t provide that and they don’t provide transportation.”
Troy Lawson (R): As chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party and a board member of Gate City Charter Academy, it’s no surprise that Lawson is diametrically opposed to Clemmons on charter schools. He contends that the popularity of the charter school argues against Clemmons’ position that it’s not accessible. “I challenge her and anyone else to come to the drive line at 7:20 in the morning and see all those parents — hundreds of them — waiting to let their children go to a school that the other side says there’s no access to.” The fact that Lawson is black isn’t likely to persuade many voters in northeast Greensboro that the voter ID initiative he and his party is pushing isn’t racist. The federal courts have ruled otherwise.
Amos Quick (D, i): A former vice chair of the Guilford County School Board, Quick won election to the state House in 2016, earning the distinction of Democratic freshman vice chair in his first term. He has introduced 117 bills, demonstrating a political philosophy he calls, “Show the people the laws you would pass as the majority.” Legislation proposed by Quick includes a law prohibiting racial profiling, a measure allowing cities and counties to create police review boards, funding for free lunch and free breakfast to all students in K-12 schools, automatic expunction of a person’s record if they’re wrongly convicted and ultimately exonerated, and a bill to provide funding to help corner stores install refrigeration so they can sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
Peter Boykin (R): Peter Boykin launched “Gays for Trump” — chronicled in a short doc by the same name — during the 2016 campaign. The concept was a hit — a ready-made rebuke to anyone who would deign to point out that Trump’s Supreme Court nominations will set back the cause of equality — but the novelty seems to have worn off since the election. Boykin has increasingly run in alt-right circles, expressing admiration for disgraced media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and in June 2017 in Raleigh he emceed a “March Against Sharia,” which promoted Islamophobic themes and drew members of the white supremacist group Identity Evropa. We’ll see if running for office revives the flagging “Gays for Trump” brand. (see reporting on this candidate)
District 59 (see reporting on this race)
Jon Hardister (R, i): Perhaps no GOP lawmaker was stung more by the backlash against HB 2 — a 2016 law preventing transgender people from using the bathroom that accords with their gender identity, which led to a corporate boycott against North Carolina — than Jon Hardister. “The legislature made a mistake,” Hardister said. “We went too far. That’s why we corrected it.” Otherwise, the three-term House member who serves as majority whip, is proud of the Republican record, particularly touting tax cuts and business growth. He supports a 2015 law that prevents local municipalities and universities from removing Confederate monuments, arguing that the policy needs to be uniform across the state. He said he defers to law enforcement on a law that requires an order by a superior court judge to obtain access to police body camera video. He opposes the expansion of Medicaid and supports voter ID.
Steven A. Buccini (D): A Grimsley High School graduate, Steven Buccini studied at UC Berkeley and works as a software-engineering consultant. He said the passage of HB 2 in 2016 was the culmination of a series of bad laws passed by the Republican majority that inspired him to run for office. Having worked in Silicon Valley, Buccini says HB 2, which was scaled back the following year, is only one of many embarrassing policy positions — also including the state prohibition against removing Confederate monuments, the state’s failure to expand Medicaid, and the state’s No. 39 ranking on teacher pay — that are a deterrent to investment. (see reporting on this candidate)
Cecil Brockman (D, i): A High Point native first elected to the state House in 2014, Brockman opposes voter ID as “a discriminatory tactic meant to suppress voting rights.” He supports expanding Medicaid. He also supports bringing greater transparency to police body-camera video, including creating a process whereby city council or a special review board could provide access “so the public has a representative in these matters advocating on their behalf.” Brockman says local governments and universities should have discretion over whether to keep monuments, and even goes a step further, saying, “I believe Confederate monuments should be taken down as they glorify people who fought to tear this country apart over their desire to own slaves.”
Kurt Collins (R): If Collins’ name is familiar, it’s likely because he ran for the District 3 seat on Greensboro City Council in 2015, losing to Democrat Justin Outling. Now a resident of Jamestown, this year Collins is making a play for state House. Collins didn’t return our questionnaire, but on his campaign website he celebrates tax cuts enacted by the Republican majority in Raleigh, expresses support for charter schools and private schools, and says he wants to ensure that state troopers receive adequate pay while putting more police officers in schools.
Pricey Harrison (D, i): First elected to the state House in 2004, Harrison is the longest serving legislator from either the Guilford or Forsyth delegations, and has been in Raleigh long enough to remember what it was like to be a progressive lawmaker fighting a centrist Democrat majority, before the Republicans took control in 2011. She criticized HB 142, which replaced HB 2, as creating “uncertainty about whether transgender people could be barred from using restrooms in government buildings, including schools.” She calls for the repeal of a 2015 law barring municipalities and universities from making their own decisions about removing Confederate monuments. She favors making it easier for individuals and local governments to obtain access to the police body-worn video, favors the expansion of Medicaid, and opposes voter ID.
Alissa Batts (R): Batts said during a recent candidate forum that she credits the Republican leadership in Raleigh with “making the hard decisions to stick with a controlled budget,” resulting in a healthy “rainy day fund” that’s available to assist those recovering from Tropical Storm Florence. She said she differs with her opponent on the role of elected representatives in government. “I believe the representative should be a voice of the people and not of the party,” Batts said. “And when I looked at Ms. Harrison’s record, I realized that I couldn’t hear my voice in her votes.” As for her own positions, Batts said she doesn’t have a solution to the controversy over Confederate monuments, but doesn’t “agree with mob rule or anarchy.” She doesn’t have a position on the current police body camera policy. She opposes Medicaid expansion, arguing it will “add tremendous costs” and make emergency rooms “even more flooded than they are today.” She personally supports the voter ID requirement.
District 62 (see reporting on this race)
John Faircloth (R, i): A former police chief and former High Point City Council member, Faircloth shepherded a 2015 bill that created a restrictive police body camera policy requiring an order from a superior court judge to obtain access to footage with a more progressive measure that allows activists to dispense clean needles to intravenous drug users. He also exercises significant power in the House as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Despite his law enforcement bona fides, Faircloth failed to obtain the endorsement of the NC Police Benevolent Association, the organization that represents police officers across the state, in this election.
Martha Shafer (D): A healthcare executive who retired from Cone Health, Shafer is part of a cohort of candidates that represents the Democrats’ best hope for cracking the Republican supermajority in the House. As a testimony to her campaign’s momentum and the candidate’s networking ability, Shafer had out-raised her opponent 10 to 1 as of late June. She favors a less restrictive police body camera video policy. And not surprisingly, given her professional background, Shafer supports expanding Medicaid, both to provide care for additional people and to bring more jobs to the state.
Evelyn Terry (D, i): A former Winston-Salem City Council member, Terry was first elected in the heavily Democratic leaning District 71 — covering the southeast quadrant of Winston-Salem — in 2012. Terry says she supports expanding Medicaid and believes that HB 2, or the “bathroom bill” was “invasive and cruel” and “[infringed] upon individual differences of human beings because of how they were born.” Terry also advocates for re-examining the formula for the state’s educational funding. Over the course of her three terms in the House, Terry has experienced frustration as a member of the party locked out of power.
Scott Arnold (R): While he’s gained some political insight during his years as a chief election judge and as a campaign volunteer, this November will be Scott Arnold’s first time on a ballot. A Republican who currently works as a landscape architect, Arnold is running for the state House on a platform of improving school safety, environmentalism and tackling the opioid crisis. When asked about the removal of Confederate statues by universities or local governments, Arnold answered that he believes that “the topplings are done by mobsters” who should be “arrested and prosecuted for destruction of property.” Arnold also supported a 2015 law that restricts police body camera footage, and said that voting provisionally was “not a problem” when asked about a constitutional amendment that would require voters to have voter ID.
Derwin Montgomery (D, i): After filing to run for reelection in February, Democratic incumbent Ed Hanes abruptly announced his retirement in August to pursue an unspecified professional opportunity. At Hanes’ prompting, the Democratic Party appointed Derwin Montgomery, a three-term Winston-Salem City Council member. As a city council member, Montgomery said he challenged the local legislative delegation’s support of a 2015 bill that made police-body camera video a personnel record and required a superior court judge to sign off before it can be viewed by the public. “When these issues arise in communities, it’s the cities and town leadership that gets the calls from the public wanting to know what’s going on, not the state leaders,” Montgomery notes. Similarly, he favors local control over the disposition of Confederate monuments. He supports expansion of Medicaid and opposes voter ID.
Reginald Reid (R): A regular at Forsyth County Republican Party events, Reid made the gutsy move of running against the late and legendary Earline Parmon in Senate District 32 in 2012. This year he’s undertaking the similarly quixotic quest of opposing all-star Democrat Derwin Montgomery in the heavily Democratic leaning District 72 in northeast Winston-Salem. Although he probably intended it ironically, the candidate who can be seen posing with Confederate monuments on the Confederate Memorial Tour Facebook page, posted on his own page on Monday: “I’m a certified Uncle Tom by trade.” In response to a question about whether local governments should have the authority to remove monuments, Reid says, “History should not be removed. History should be discussed.” He says HB 2 was “a public safety issue,” not a civil rights issue, opposes Medicaid expansion, and supports voter ID.
Lee Zachary (R, i): Recent changes to the House map drew the western tip of Forsyth County into District 73, which also covers the entirety of Yadkin County. The district has been represented by Lee Zachary, a local lawyer, since 2015. Zachary, who does not have a campaign website, did not respond to our questionnaire.
William Stinson (D): A Democratic farmer who has unsuccessfully run for office three times before, William Stinson replaced Aaron Cave, who won the Democratic primary, on the ballot after Cave passed away. Stinson called HB 2 “the most embarrassing piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years” and believes that the constitutional amendment about voter IDs makes it harder “for the average North Carolinian to vote.” On his website Stinson says that his primary reason for entering the race was to “to fight against the inadequate funding of education by the North Carolina General Assembly.”
District 74 (see reporting on this race)
Debra Conrad (R, i): A former Forsyth County commissioner who was first elected to state House in 2012, Conrad touts her Moravian heritage as the foundation of her conservatism. She sponsored a 2015 bill that made it unlawful for government agencies to accept alternative IDs — a strike at the FaithAction ID — and has proven to be a consistent advocate for additional restrictions on immigrants. In an election in which education takes center stage, Conrad argues that corporate and personal income tax rate cuts ushered in by Republican are boosting the economy and positioning the state to make teacher pay more competitive.
Terri LeGrand (D): A director in Wake Forest University’s student financial aid office, LeGrand grossed the highest campaign receipts of any candidate in Forsyth or Guilford county, and outraised her Republican opponent more than 2 to 1. LeGrand argues that the Republican majority has misplaced its priorities by focusing on personal and corporate tax rate cuts instead of funding education. She opposes a 2015 law that prohibits local governments and universities from deciding for themselves whether to remove Confederate monuments, supports increased public access to police body camera video, supports Medicaid expansion and opposes voter ID.
District 75 (see reporting on this race)
Donny Lambeth (R, i): A former hospital administrator and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board member first elected to the state House in 2012, Lambeth led the effort to revamp the state’s Medicaid system, but the lawmaker has maintained demonstrated lockstep conformity with fellow Republicans by refusing to expand Medicaid, leaving hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without coverage and billionsin federal dollars that could be used to create thousands ofjobs. Yet Lambeth’s politics aren’t uniformly conservative: He cosponsored the bipartisan Corner Store Initiative, a 2017 bill that would have provided funds to help corner stores install refrigeration equipment so they could sell produce in food deserts.
Dan Besse (D): A member of Winston-Salem City Council since 2005, Besse ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2008. But this is perhaps his most audacious move: Responding to President Trump’s raft of anti-immigrant executive orders in January 2017, Besse drafted a largely symbolic “welcoming city” resolution, but the Democratic majority on city council withdrew support for the measure after conservative lawmakers led by Rep. Debra Conrad and Sen. Joyce Krawiec threatened to withhold state funding. As a city leader hemmed in by state government, Besse made the logical move — running for state legislature. He’s challenging Republican Donny Lambeth, who quickly dubbed him “Sanctuary City” Dan. Besse calls HB 2 “a product of bigotry and political opportunism.” He favors giving local governments control over the fate of Confederate monuments. He supports expansion of Medicaid and opposes voter ID. And he believes local governments should have the authority to release police body-camera video.
Forsyth County Sheriff (see reporting on this race)
Bill Schatzman (R, i): A former FBI agent, Schatzman came into office in 2003, after Republican voters involuntarily retired the scandal-plagued Ron Barker, whose son, a deputy, shot himself with his own weapon in 1999 and blamed it on two phantom Hispanic men. Schatzman has promoted an image of professionalism over the course of his four terms, but the office hasn’t always run smoothly. In 2013, the county made a $96,000 settlement to a former deputy who was fired after taking leave to serve in military combat in Iraq. And since 2013, county commissioners and members of the public alike have raised concerns about medical-related deaths of inmates in the jail.
Bobby Kimbrough (D): A retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Kimbrough warns voters that gangs, violent crime and, most importantly, drug sales are on the rise. He wants to create a narcotic unit, and talks about addressing “inmate living conditions” and medical care at the jail. Kimbrough, who dispatched two Democratic opponents during the primary, made a minor stir early in the campaign writing about his wife’s death from an apparent opioid overdose in 2005. During the primary, he declined to explain why the vast majority of the start-up funding for his campaign came from individuals in the video sweepstakes industry and how he would handle enforcement as sheriff. Since then, the candidate has doubled his receipts, and his donor base has broadened to include insurance, law enforcement and higher education. (see reporting on this candidate)
Guilford County Sheriff (see reporting on this race)
BJ Barnes (R, i): Barnes was first elected sheriff in the red-wave election of 1994. The six-term incumbent is a deft political operator who flagrantly endorses other Republican candidates and yet has gotten re-elected in a Democratic-leaning county without much trouble. In 2016, Barnes appeared with Donald Trump and has sometimes voiced tough-on-immigration rhetoric, but after Trump’s election, he declined to honor ICE detainers. As such, Barnes is among a cohort of red-state sheriffs across the country who have complicated Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ pledge to crack down on “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Barnes allowed the sheriff’s office’s accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies to lapse, saying, “The only thing CALEA does is give you a scapegoat when things go wrong.”
Danny Rogers (D): A former deputy, Rogers is seeking a rematch with Barnes, who bested him in the 2014 election, 56.1 percent to 43.9 percent. Aside from Rogers’ pledge to restore the office’s accreditation with CALEA and reinstate the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE program, there’s not a great deal policy-wise to distinguish the Democratic challenger from the Republican incumbent. There’s no debate over cooperation with immigration authorities, jail visitation policies or the provision of healthcare in jail. Parts of Rogers’ platform conveys a “when did you stop beating your wife” implication against Barnes, such as: “Create safer outcomes with community policing; rebuild law enforcement and citizen relationships; reduce officer attrition rates; and develop equitable employment practices.” Meanwhile, Barnes has turned the tables on Rogers in an almost literal sense, reminding reporters and voters about Rogers’ criminal record, which he has declined to discuss in specifics. If anything is clear, it’s that these two guys really don’t like each other.
Forsyth County Commission
At large (see reporting on this race)
Ted Kaplan (D, i): Ted Kaplan, the incumbent Democratic candidate for Forsyth County’s commission at-large seat, originally won the seat in 2006, serving until 2010, when he was beat by Republican Bill Whiteheart. Kaplan then won the seat back in 2014. A centrist, Kaplan has been a state politician for more than four decades after being elected to the state House from 1976 to 1982, and then serving in the state Senate for the next 10 years. After serving on the Forsyth County Commission for a total of eight years, Kaplan says he’s most proud of the economic development initiatives undertaken over the past four years.
Buddy Collins (R): A Republican lawyer in Kernersville, Buddy Collins has been involved in education since he was first appointed to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board in 1996. In 2013, Collins was appointed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory to the State Board of Elections despite staunch opposition by now deceased state Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham and others who cited Collins’s history of anti-LGBT stances such as voting no on a 2009 motion approved by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board to add “sexual orientation” to a list of characteristics prohibited under the district’s bullying and harassment policies.
Keenen Altic (G): Brought into the political fold after collecting signatures for the Green Party in 2016, 33-year-old electrical technician Keenen Altic, is the newest member on the ballot. Running on a progressive platform and representing the Green Party, Altic says he is running to create rent control tied to wages, stop the county jail from locking up immigrants, demilitarize the sheriff’s office and create a property-tax exemption for working-class people. Altic is a graduate from Cape Fear Community College with an associate’s degree in sustainable technology, and this is his first time running for office.
Guilford County Commission
Alan W. Perdue (R, i): Perdue served 10 years as the director of Guilford County Emergency Services before being elected to the Guilford County Commission in 2012 when a new redistricting map imposed by the General Assembly gave Republicans control of the county legislative body. He ran unopposed in the 2014 general election. Perdue is interested in reducing the county’s debt and addressing the shortfalls of local mental health and substance abuse services.
Scott A. Jones (D): Jones has extensive experience as a candidate: He challenged BJ Barnes in the 2010 Republican primary for county sheriff and ran in the 2012 Republican primary for governor. Then, after switching parties, he ran as a Democrat for state House District 59 in 2014 and 2016. In October 2017, Jones found himself on the receiving end of a denunciation by his party following a status update on his Facebook page expressing the hope that a high school student charged with felony assault would get “a nice big boyfriend in jail” and “a little something from behind!” The administrator of the Guilford Democrats page wrote, “It has come to our attention that someone running for state office as a Democrat recently posted a joke about prison rape on his personal Facebook page. It was an extremely distasteful thing to say, and the GCDP wants to make it clear that while this person may identify as a Democrat, there is no place for anyone who makes light of such traumatic violence in our party.” Jones has denied making the post, claiming his page had been hacked. He didn’t respond to our questionnaire. (see reporting about this candidate)
Justin Conrad (R, i): A restaurateur who owns Libby Hill Seafood Restaurants, Conrad followed a tried-and-true path into Guilford County politics — as a volunteer leader of the Wyndham Championship in 2005. He cites job growth in the county and a decline in poverty in the Greensboro-High Point metro area as signs that Guilford is on the right track. “I have used my experience in business to help work on challenges like our animal shelter, and to come up with unique ideas like the $10 million school security bond,” Conrad writes. “This style of bond had never been used in Guilford County for education before and was a creative way to ensure the safety of our children and our school staff.”
Tracy Lamothe (D): Lamothe is an accountant specializing in fund accounting. She has held a number of executive positions on boards such as YWCA of Greater Baltimore and Historic Aycock Neighborhood Association (now Dunleith) and is currently treasurer for Deep Roots Market in Greensboro. Lamothe asserts that protecting water quality and increasing funding for K-12 education will help bring new companies and jobs to Guilford County.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board
At large (see reporting about this race)
Robert Barr (R, i): First elected to the school board in 2014, Barr’s positions are comfortably within bounds for his political party. He takes a noncommittal stance on community advocates’ demands for replacement of Ashley Elementary, which has struggled with mold infestation, noting only that the district has spent $1.5 million to replace the HVAC system. He says if Forsyth County voters approve a ¼-cent sales tax, a portion will be used to fund teacher pay supplements. And he backs the current School Choice assignment plan, arguing that it’s supported by a majority of parents across all demographics.
Elisabeth Motsinger (D, i): Since her election in 2006, Motsinger has been the only Democrat able to wrangle the votes to win a county-wide seat on the board. As such, she’s never had the opportunity to govern in the majority on the Republican-dominated, conservative board. She argues that it’s time to revisit the 1990s-era School Choice assignment plan, which has been faulted for reinstituting segregation, and says it’s imperative that the school board ask the Forsyth County Commission for about $6 million to pay for a teacher salary supplement that would be equitable with neighboring Guilford County. But Motsinger downplays any prior commitment by the school board to replace Ashley Elementary, while stating that she asked for a $1 million planning grant so Ashley will be the first school to be built on the next bond.
Deanna Kaplan (D): The retirement of Republican Marilyn Parker opens up the third at-large seat on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board. Parker returned to the board in January 2017 to fill the unexpired term of Mark Johnson, who was elected state superintendent of public instruction in 2016. Kaplan ran for District 2 in 2014 and fell short of the votes needed to win one of the four seats. She often campaigns with her husband, Ted Kaplan, who is running for reelection to the Forsyth County Commission. Kaplan says on her campaign website that she supports maintaining the School Choice plan “with some modifications to ensure that we are not packing poverty students in single schools,” and supports increasing teacher pay supplements. Kaplan did not return our questionnaire, and her website doesn’t address the challenges at Ashley Elementary.
Jim Smith (R): Smith did not respond to City Beat’s questionnaire, but at a candidate forum in Clemmons earlier this month he responded to a question about the School Choice plan by saying education leaders should study what other districts have tried and what works before undertaking any major overhauls. In contrast to fellow Republican Tim Brooker, who said the school board should ask for funds for a teacher pay supplement and figure out how to pay for it later, Smith said the county needs to come up with a sustainable way to increase teacher pay before proceeding.
Andrea Pace Bramer (D): A parent with professional experience in the financial industry, Bramer is running on a “throw the bums out” platform. She opposes the School Choice plan, noting that the school board is currently defending itself against a civil rights complaint. She says the Choice plan, where one zone has no elementary schools with greater than 50 percent reading proficiency and another zone with three schools over 70 percent proficiency, is indefensible. She calls it a “shock and disappointment” that the current board didn’t ask the county for money to increase the teacher pay supplement. And she faults the board for its handling of mold problems at Ashley Elementary, writing, “Turning a blind eye to the community and waiting until shamed in the press and on social media is completely irresponsible and negligent.”
Timothy Brooker (R): Brooker says he supports the current assignment plan, writing, “While this plan is not perfect, it is far more preferable than an assignment plan that balances schools by socio-economic status or race. My focus would be on improving these low-performing schools so that they become the ‘choice’ of many of our parents and students.” But he’s even more noncommittal about Ashley Elementary than current board members, who have pledged to build a new school with funds from the next bond. Brooker writes, “If mold/health issues continue at Ashley then I would be in favor of adding Ashley back into the mix for future replacement. In the interim, I would advocate for Ashley students/teachers to be able to attend/work at other schools if capacity or teaching needs can be met.” On the matter of the teacher pay supplement, Brooker says the school board should ask the county for sufficient funds to bring its rank in line with the county’s status as the fourth most populous in the state.
District 2 (see reporting about this race)
Dana Caudill Jones (R, i): A former member of the Kernersville Board of Aldermen, Jones was part of a new wave of Republican leadership elected to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board in 2014, although elevation was more a matter of generational succession than change. Her colleagues elected Jones to chair the board. She supports the current School Choice assignment plan. But Jones said in response to a City Beat election questionnaire that she acknowledges the current plan “needs revisions.” She says the opening of a new middle school in Lewisville provides “the perfect opportunity to start community conversations around choice, evaluate our current zones and collectively improve our plan. My vision is an expanded choice plan that offers more options for students, better balances all of our schools to reflect the demographics of Forsyth County.” The board chair pledges that a working group of board members, teachers and county officials will have a plan in place by January to bring Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools back into the top five districts for teacher pay supplements. And like other incumbents, Jones responds to concerns about mold at Ashley Elementary by noting that funds for a new school design were included in the 2016 bond package, and the district is currently working to secure land for a new school.
Lori Goins Clark (R, i): Part of the new cohort of Republican leadership, Clark succeeded her mother, Jane Goins, on the board in 2014. Clark supports the School Choice plan. But with the district building new schools to accommodate growth, Clark says the board has an “opportunity to look at zones and assignment lines.” She says it’s not realistic to “break up” concentrations of poverty by rebalancing school populations. Instead, Clark argues, “our society should begin to tackle poverty — breaking that cycle — outside of the schools, inside of churches and communities and businesses.” She goes on to say that the district should look for community partners to develop programs to address poverty by incentivizing marriage. Clark says the effort to come up with a plan to bring the teacher pay supplement in line with the other four large school districts in the state has taken longer than she would like, but she asks “teachers to simply believe that this board has made increasing the local supplement a priority.” Clark acknowledges that replacement of Ashley Elementary was dropped from the 2016 bond list “because the needs are always much more than can be met in any one bond.” She adds, “Ashley was indeed discussed and considered, but because there were other pieces to a new Ashley school still undecided, we did remove it, but included the design fees of the future building to show support for it.”
Lida Calvert Hayes (R, i): A painting contractor, Hayes was selected by the school board to fill a vacancy left when Jeannie Metcalf resigned in 2015, so this election is her first opportunity to win the seat by going before voters in the district. Hayes possesses the rare ability to appeal to all constituencies in the polarized era of Trump, campaigning with the future president in 2016 and showing up to talk to a group opposed to the School Choice plan at a recent candidate forum. She said at that forum that she favors School Choice, but added this caveat in her response to our questionnaire: “I do not like the fact that all students, due to socioeconomic conditions, do not have a way to be included in some of these benefits; this bothers me greatly. Socioeconomic factors beyond the control of our kids shouldn’t keep disadvantaged students in failing schools.” Hayes says the school board should ask the county for more money to pay for teacher salary supplements so the school system doesn’t continue to fall behind other large districts. She says she looks “forward to Ashley having a new school as soon as monies are available. We are looking at ways to make this happen pertaining to land now.”
Leah H. Crowley (R): Crowley supports the School Choice plan. “I do think when parents have a choice, there’s more buy-in,” she says. “When you have neighborhood schools it’s easier for kids to get involved.” And, like Hayes, Crowley supports using public funds to build a new stadium for RJ Reynolds High School. “I am absolutely in support of this project,” she says. “This is an access and equity issue,” adding that low-wealth students at the vaunted high school are shut out of athletics and other after-school activities because they lack transportation.
Rebecca Nussbaum (D): Nussbaum, who serves as the director of career development at UNC School of the Arts, says the current School Choice doesn’t work. Taking an initiative launched by Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines as a model, Nussbaum says the community needs a “Forsyth County Education Thought Force” that can address an array of issues, including “how to meaningfully and intentionally have balance in our schools.” She says the school board needs to advocate at both the county and state level for additional funds to pay teachers. She calls Ashley Elementary “a prime example of a building in need of replacement.”
Marilynn Baker (D): A former instructor at Forsyth Tech and longtime public education advocate, Baker participated in the Moral Mondays protests in 2013, and joined teachers in Raleigh during a massive protest calling for increased educational investment in March. Baker calls the School Choice assignment plan “broken,” and calls for “a community-involved strategic assessment of our current situation and an objective analysis of viable options to improve the accessibility and quality of meaningful choices.” Baker says it’s “a tragedy” that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools teacher pay supplement has fallen from the Top 10 five years ago to No. 26 and last among urban counties. She says the school district can’t expect to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers with a supplement roughly $1,000 below neighboring Guilford County. On the matter of Ashley Elementary, Baker says the district needs improved transparency between the school board and the community.
Guilford County School Board
Winston McGregor (D, i): McGregor, the executive director of the Guilford Education Alliance, was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Alan Duncan and to replace him as the Democratic nominee after Duncan was appointed to the State Board of Education by Gov. Roy Cooper in June. With regards to recent school shootings, McGregor suggests upgrading facilities, increasing funding, adding more counselors, closing gun sale loopholes and training officers to de-escalate situations. When asked about racial bias by school resource officers, McGregor said, “We must provide training — both contextual and tactical — to educators, school staff and all adults working with students.”
Marc Ridgill (R): A retired Greensboro police officer, Ridgill served as a school resource officer at Grimsley High School, and the badge on his campaign sign hints that the candidate considers security to be a starting point for educational stewardship. Ridgill did not return City Beat’s questionnaire despite the fact that the first question about school shootings should have been a slam-dunk for him; he said in a brief phone conversation that he could a write a book on the subject. Ridgill’s campaign website is silent on three other issues raised in the questionnaire, namely the school-to-prison pipeline, charter schools and a secure learning environment for undocumented students. He says he’s “the only person running that has the professional experience to actually address school violence,” and that “children and parents have the right to be aware and prepared if a crisis occurs.”
Anita Sharpe (R, i): Over the past 12 months, Sharpe has had to repair her relationship with Superintendent Sharon Contreras after an email surfaced in which the board member told a district employee that she was one vote short of mustering a majority to fire the superintendent. Beyond scheming to depose the district’s top administrator, Sharpe wrote, “I encourage you to delete this email on your end and I intend to delete it on mine. (Against the law for me but these are extenuating times).” Since the leaked email came from Sharpe’s account, it’s clear that she did not follow through on her plan to break the law. “Was it ill-advised and wrong to do? Yes,” Sharpe said at an Oct. 9 candidate forum at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro. “Did I admit that? Yes. It was not illegal. I apologized to the superintendent, to the teachers, to the staff, to everybody for that email…. I did not break the law, sir. The very existence of the email is proof of that.” Beyond the email incident, Sharpe provided thoughtful responses to our questionnaire. In response to a question about school shootings, she said weapons permitting should include universal background checks, and schools need more counselors and mental health professionals. She expressed skepticism about charter schools, raising concerns that charters receive state funding based on 20-day enrollment even if students transfer back to public schools. And she said education leaders and the public have no data to determine whether charters improve academic access. Finally, as it pertains to undocumented students, Sharpe says the district provides interpreters for students and guardians and says “our principals are constantly reassuring parents concerning confidentiality and the safety of our children,” adding, “While we should and will protect the children, we should not and cannot offer asylum to undocumented adults.”
Greg Drumwright (D): Drumwright, who serves as senior minister at Citadel of Praise Church & Campus Ministry in Greensboro, proclaims, “This is the day, this is the hour when people are looking for a change on our board.” Prior to becoming a pastor, Drumwright worked as a teacher in Guilford County Schools and Alamance-Burlington Schools. He did not respond to our questionnaire, so his position on many issues must be parsed from various sources. Drumwright expresses concern about the achievement gap, arguing that the board needs to give stronger support to the superintendent to tackle the issue, but his views on the disproportionate referral of black students into the juvenile justice system are unclear. Likewise, there’s nothing on his website about school safety or protections for undocumented students. He says in response to a questionnaire published by the News & Record that charter schools are here to stay, but public schools should compete by “making education more transformational and effective.” He also says he wants to create a “student leadership academy to foster student potential around citizenship, social/civic interest and community involvement,” and wants to hold regular townhalls for constituents.
Linda Welborn (R, i): Welborn, who was originally elected to Guilford County’s Board of Education in 2012, is running for re-election this year. Welborn, who has been vocal about her opposition to charter schools in the past, told City Beat that “for-profit charter management companies have skewed charters away from innovative labs to profit centers.” She also said that the board has been working to “to structurally secure our schools” and requesting funding for “additional school counselors, social workers and psychologists” in response to recent school shootings. When asked about children who come from undocumented families that are under the threat of deportation, Welborn replied that “schools should be a safe zone for children” and that the county is “currently implementing two dual language schools.”
Desirée Best (D): A Greensboro native, Best grew up in Guilford County schools before teaching in them. She won Guilford County High School Teacher of the Year in 2003-04. Now, she says she’s running to bring a teacher’s perspective to the board. “I believe that too many decisions at the federal, state, and local levels are made by non-educators — those who have never spent any time in the classroom or have never dealt with the day-to-day realities of educating children.” Best says that to address gun violence in schools, the district needs to take action to decrease bullying and harassment, cultivate stronger student-adult relationships to build trust, and increase access to mental-health services. Asked what if anything should be done to protect students from undocumented families, Best said “the district should ensure that the parents have the support and that they need to be an active part of their child’s educational process and that they receive the resources and interpretation needed to understand all policies and guidelines associated with GCS.”
Wes Cashwell (R, i): Cashwell succeeded fellow Republican Ed Price in District 6, one of two districts that cover High Point. In June, following the resignation of Board Chair Alan Duncan, Cashwell’s colleagues elected him to serve as vice chair of the board, while elevating Deena Hayes to chair. Cashwell did not respond to our questionnaire, so his views on protections for undocumented students are unknown. He responded to a News & Record questionnaire about how the district should deal with resources being skimmed off by charter schools thusly: “The engagement of parents, teachers and administrators to uplift a positive academic outcome is validation of the district’s goal to ‘increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness to better support student learning.’” And Cashwell addresses concerns about both school safety and the criminalization of students by expressing faith that police officers in schools are handling business: “A clearly defined SRO program which incorporates campus security, mentoring, role modeling and relationship building has the potential to not only help establish a safe learning environment, but also prevent misconduct and campus disruption while diverting students from involvement in the criminal justice system.”
Khem Irby (D): Irby, who unsuccessfully ran for the District 6 seat on the Guilford County School Board, is back and on the ballot this November against her 2016 opponent, Republican Wes Cashwell. In 2016, the New York City transplant and resident of Greensboro’s Adams Farm neighborhood lost the vote by 9.3 points. Irby says she opposes increased security in schools as a reaction to school shootings and acknowledged the existence of a racially-biased school-to-prison pipeline. Irby also advocates for developing “a student sanctuary policy” for students and their undocumented parents and that “every student no matter their status should feel safe and never fear being taken from their learning environment.”
NC Supreme Court
Barbara Jackson (R, i): Jackson has served on the Supreme Court since 2011, and although she’s one of two Republicans on the ballot, she notes that she’s the only one with the endorsement of the state Republican Party. Jackson served as general counsel for the state Department of Labor from 2001 to 2004, and has earned the endorsement of Republican Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, along with former Chief Justice Burley Mitchell. Jackson says she’s centering her reelection campaign on three priorities: adherence to the rule of law, fair and impartial justice, and increasing the utilization of technology.
Anita Earls (D): It would be hard to imagine a brighter light in progressive jurisprudence in North Carolina than Earls. A former assistant attorney general for civil rights under President Clinton, Earls went on to found the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which fought the White Street Landfill and helped bring a civil rights complaint against the Greensboro Police Department for its treatment of Jorge Cornell and the North Carolina Latin Kings. But no issue has catapulted the coalition’s legal work to national renown quite as much as its successful challenge to state legislative redistricting plans, which the courts found to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Earls has earned the endorsement of no less than former Attorney General Eric Holder.
Chris Anglin (R): Anglin changed his voter registration from Democrat to Republican, exploiting the weird election system devised by the Republican-controlled legislature, which made judicial elections partisan while eliminating the primary. In response, Republican lawmakers tried to get Anglin thrown off the ballot, but the courts upheld his candidacy. There’s no love lost. Anglin says he’s running “to make the point that it is a mistake to be the only state in 100 years to make our judicial races partisan.” He charges that the new law undermines the independence of the judiciary and makes judges beholden to political parties.
NC Court of Appeals
John S. Arrowood (D, i): Arrowood of Charlotte has been appointed to the Court of Appeals by two separate Democratic governors, first by Gov. Mike Easley in 2007 and then by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2017. He says he pledges “to be an independent member of the judiciary and to administer justice equally without favoritism to any party or to the state consistent with the constitution and laws of North Carolina and the United States Constitution.”
Andrew T. Heath (R): Heath of Raleigh currently serves on the superior court bench. He’s a former board member of the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees, a former chairman of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, a former secretary of the Council of State and a former professor of legal and regulatory environment of business at Campbell University.
Toby Hampson (D): The retirement of Judge Ann Marie Calabria sets off a three-way race for succession. Hampson’s first job out of law school in 2002 was clerking for the Court of Appeals, where he served under judges K. Edward Greene, Wanda Bryant and Bob C. Hunter. Since then, he’s worked in private practice handling cases involving family law, worker’s compensation, business disputes, real estate, personal injury and criminal matters. Hampson pledges to maintain civility, impartiality and judicial independence on the court.
Jefferson G. Griffin (R): Although Griffin is one of two Republicans on the ballot for the Calabria seat, he’s the only one who has received the endorsement of the state Republican Party. After serving as a prosecutor in the Wake County District Attorney’s office, Griffin became a district court judge. He also serves as a JAG officer in the North Carolina Army National Guard, where he advises on rules of engagement and law of war. The candidate says he believes “in the American rule of law, protecting our Constitution, judicial independence, access to justice, civic education and impartial courts.”
Sandra Alice Ray (R): Ray, a district court judge in Wilmington, takes it as a point of pride that she’s not endorsed by any party. “I believe as our constitutions say, in the sovereignty of the people — not the politicians and bureaucrats,” Ray writes. “We can never forget that all the power of the government is invested in and derived from ‘the people’ and is founded upon ‘our will only.’ I want to serve on your court of appeals to preserve the self-evident rights our constitutions guarantee.”
Allegra Katherine Collins (D): Judge Rick Elmore of Greensboro is stepping down from the court, alongside his colleague Judge Calabria. Like Toby Hampson, Allegra Collins clerked for the Court of Appeals. Now, she teaches at Campbell Law School, where she obtained her law degree. Collins carries endorsements from the state Democratic Party, the NC AFL-CIO and the Replacements Limited PAC. Collins tells voters: “I am an analytical thinker, thorough researcher, articulate writer, and independent arbiter, and I will use my experience and expertise to be a judge on the NC Court of Appeals that all citizens can rely upon to judge fairly and accurately.”
Chuck Kitchen (R): Kitchen’s most high-profile case was likely defending Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson against the US Justice Department, when the Obama administration accused the sheriff of racial profiling through the 287(g) program. Johnson won the case, although a federal judge admonished the sheriff for the use of anti-Latinx slurs by his staff, and the federal government dropped the county from the 287(g) program. Kitchen argues that you shouldn’t be a judge until you’ve litigated cases.
Michael Monaco Sr. (L): Although Monaco currently works in product development for Mansa Electrical, he was admitted to the bar in 2000, and served as a partner in a small law firm through 2015. He says it’s paramount that the Court of Appeals remain objective and independent, especially in disputes between the branches of government. As a Libertarian, Monaco argues that he would be immune from political pressure, either from the Democrat-controlled executive branch or the Republican-controlled legislative branch.
Guilford County Superior Court
District 18A (Hinnant seat)
Lora Cubbage (D): A former prosecutor, Cubbage is looking for a promotion to the more powerful position of superior court judge after serving for two years on the district court bench. Cubbage emphasizes her community involvement, including volunteering with Guilford County Schools as a greeter and Lunch Buddy. She says she has the backing of Judge Patrice Hinnant, who’s retiring from the bench, and pledges to serve with the same integrity and honor as her mentor.
Mark T. Cummings (D): Like Cubbage, Cummings was first elected to the district court bench in 2016, and is now looking for a promotion. Unlike Cubbage, Cummings comes to the bench from a background in criminal defense. An ad for Cummings’ 2017 campaign entitled “This is why I’m running” features a succession of headlines suggesting the system is stacked against poor people and people of color. Cummings said at the time that he believes “the disparity in our justice system is the civil rights issue of our time.” It’s difficult to say whether Cummings has truly balanced the scales in his two years on the court, but he made headlines by ordering defendants in High Point to hold signs identifying themselves as domestic abusers. Some of the men interviewed by the news media said they weren’t domestic abusers, but had agreed to plead guilty and hold the signs so they could avoid jail time and get on with their lives.
District 18D (Davis seat)
Gavin Reardon (D): A former Marine Corps judge advocate, Gavin Reardon applied his legal skills in Iraq’s al Anbar Province during the US military operation in Iraq in the mid-aughts, and now practices law as a partner with the Rossabi Reardon Klein Spivey law firm in Greensboro. He says he’s running for superior court judge because he wants to maintain “an independent judiciary free from the influence of partisan politics,” and cites bail as an example of how “‘justice’ continues to be hardest on those who have the least.”
Bill Wood (D): Wood might be the least well known member of his family: His father, Terry, served as Greensboro city attorney, and his wife, Cindy Farmer, is a WGHP Fox 8 news anchor. Up to his appointment in May to the superior court bench by Gov. Roy Cooper, Wood worked as a prosecutor under three Guilford County district attorneys. The candidate touts himself “as someone who is organized, hard working and honest.”
Guilford County District Court
Jon Kreider (R, i): Although he’s yet to win a judicial election — Gov. Pat McCrory appointed him to the bench to fill a vacancy in 2016 — Kreider has racked up an impressive and varied slate of endorsements: Sheriff BJ Barnes (law enforcement, check), local attorney Jessica Culver (progressives, check), gun-rights activist Mark Robinson (conservatives, check), along with a domestic violence advocate, an opioid treatment advocate and a fellow member of his multiracial church.
Larry Archie (D): A criminal defense attorney with an office in downtown Greensboro, Archie’s CV includes service with the US Army Reserve and National Guard, adjunct professor of English at NC A&T University and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Greensboro YWCA and Urban Ministry. He wants to engage with communities, churches and civic organizations to address juvenile delinquency, the needs of military veterans and mental health.
Ballot initiatives: 6 constitutional amendments and 1 tax increase
Ballot initiative are used to drive voter turnout, provide political cover and, occasionally, get honest feedback form the public on complicated decisions. This year all North Carolina voters will weigh in in six proposed amendments to the state constitution. It’s worth noting that the state constitution has been altered significantly only twice since its initial drafting in 1776. Once in 1868 to abolish slavery and guarantee equal rights to all north Carolinians after the Civil War, and again in 1971 after a study by the NC Bar Association recommended an update to reflect the growing complexities of state and federal government. Forsyth voters have a tax referendum.
1. Hunting and fishing
The text of this one is vague: “Constitutional Amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.” No mention of how or why. Hunting and fishing are protected in this state under several laws, with regulations on weaponry, game seasons and safety.
2. Victims’ rights
“Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.” The initial Crime Victim’s Rights Act was passed in 1998, and then amended by law in 2001. It was further clarified by session law under this very General Assembly in 2017. But victims’ rights are not enshrined in the NC Constitution.
3. Income tax cap
The state constitution already has a cap on income tax — it’s 10 percent, outlined in Sec. 2(6) of Article V. This drops it to 7 percent. The current rate is about 6 percent.
4. Judicial vacancies
This strips the power of appointing empty judge seats away from the governor and the executive branch. Instead it proposes that a commission be appointed by the governor, the legislature and the NC Supreme Court, bringing all three branches of government into the equation. In the interim, the legislature would basically appoint interim judges instead of the governor.
5. Elections and ethics board
Instead of the NC Board of Elections, elections would be overseen by this new entity, merging the functions of elections and ethics. Currently, the nine-member BOE has four from each party and a single unaffiliated voter, chosen by the governor from two nominated by the other eight members of the board. The new configuration will have just four from each party, all selected by the General Assembly, removing the governor from the process.
6. Voter ID
“Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.” It’s worth noting that the General Assembly passed a voter ID bill in 2013, but it was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court. That bill was struck down because , as the court noted, it disenfranchised black voters “with almost surgical precision.” This voter ID provision comes unencumbered with any other restrictions, so it could pass muster with federal courts if it becomes enshrined in our constitution.
Forsyth sales tax referenda
1. It’s sort of misleading: The county needs to raise funds to cover the cost of a new courthouse. It will come from either this proposed -cent sales-tax increase (25 cents on $100) or a 3.1-cent property tax increase ($46.50 a year on a home valued at $150,000). Basically, the money’s coming from somewhere, either property owners or everyone via a consumption tax. After the courthouse is paid for, 40 percent of the rest of the money is earmarked for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
This voter guide was compiled by Jordan Green, Lauren Barber, Brian Clarey and Sayaka Matsuoka.